Type: Trad, Alpine, 1400 ft, 8 pitches, Grade III
FA: unknown
Page Views: 9,217 total · 49/month
Shared By: shad O'Neel on Aug 20, 2003
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

10 Opinions

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High quality climbing in a neglected area. Neglected, clearly, due to the grueling approach. Many feet (~550)of elevation are lost near the end of the approach, 6 miles or so from the car (~5000 vert total). Follow the Roaring Fork Trail (located on the far side of Lake Granby) up, down, across, back up over and down to Stone Lake. Just before getting to Stone Lake, cut across a lush meadow and start up the obvious talus gully at the bottom of the tower. Amble past the large chockstones over slippery rock near the top of this gully. This plops you at the bottom of a fine wall. We did 5 longish pitches on bomber rock taking a fairly direct line up the series of three buttresses. For comfort, it seemed you should feel comfy leading 5.7, although much easier lines are wanderable no doubt. Trickier lines may also be confronted with smirks. Follow your nose to obtain the best fun for you.

P1. Atop the grassy ramp, follow nice corners and then wander left up through a dish (200' plus some soloing).

P2. Cross the ledge, then climb the glorious ramp to some cracks and on to a ledge (200'). You could also climb the white dihedral here, looks fun, if you have gear.

P3. Cimb a series of two cracks for a rope length. After the first crack- step right 15' into a second (200').

P4. Step up a slab and climb a widish crack for a bit to a ledge (150').

P5-8. climb the obvious fist crack (100'), or head left to a cool traverse on knobs across a big block to a splitter, then up through steep 5.8 cracks to the summit (225').

MANY variations are possible. Gerry Roach has a good description and photo in his Indian Peaks Guidebook.


Depends how hard you want to climb. There are 5.8-5.9 variations possible, so bring some cams, otherwise at 5.7- a #1, #2, and a light set of nuts should do. Note: for this rack, feel comfy runnin' it out.
This indeed offers a beautiful day in the mountains. The lake at the base of the buttress is slightly out of the way, but a gorgeous place to visit. For the descent, traverse off the back (some 4th class or rappel). If you haven't left anything at the base (a good idea), you can contour around talus slopes and a few gullies to hit the meadows just below the pass on the way in -- that way you don't have to hike back up a long trail. Dec 10, 2003
John Parnigoni
Golden, CO
John Parnigoni   Golden, CO
I've done this route twice now. The Indian Peaks book has a decent description of the route. The hiking in does start off steep and gains quite a bit of vertical right away. But the hard work to get up and over the pass into Hells Canyon is well worth it.

My suggestion for gear is this: Bring a single rope. There are 3 easy ramps for early retreat between the 3 buttresses on the route. As far as pro: I brought a rack of Friends and a set of nuts and 8 slings. This was plenty. There were several pitches where I would place a single piece. Most of the route is easy climbing

We simul-climbed the first roped pitch (the first real pitch after starting up the gully to get beneath the first buttress). The first buttress is maybe 90m high. The last 30m to the top is easy 5.0 or 4th class. Also, I think the 5.7 pitch should be done. It's the best pitch. It's an obvious crack that goes up for maybe 50-60 feet. Easy to protect.

Getting off the top. I remember doing one short rap. Someone had a sling rapped around a rock in September 2002. The rap was maybe 50 feet down. Jul 2, 2006
Kai Larson
Sandy, Utah
Kai Larson   Sandy, Utah
We climbed this route (sort of) and it was enjoyable. However, I had a hard time following the Roach guidebook description. I don't think that there was any time where what we were climbing correlated with the guidebook description. I think we were too far East. That said, the climbing was pretty fun, and we were able to figure out ways to keep going up, with the hardest pitches going at 5.7.

Bottom line is that there are plenty of climbable variations on this peak, and even if you get lost and off-route you can probably figure out a way up.

The approach is kind of steep. Took us 4 hours going in, and 3 hours going back. We camped near Stone Lake. Aug 14, 2008
Legs Magillicutty   Durango
If you approach this thing from the West I believe my partner and I climbed the SW Face. We were never actually on the buttress but could clearly see it while on the ramp just below the uppe tier. Does anyone have a good photo of the location of the start? Our pitches were all in the 5.6-5.7 range. They were pretty dirty and solid rock for the most part with a few exceptions. Aug 25, 2008
Here's some beta about the tower from our climb last weekend:

Hike In:
The hike up Roaring Fork and over the pass is long and steep, but beautiful. The first mile is steep, then the hiking is more pleasant for a few miles, then a long mile (or two miles!) of steep up hill to the pass. Nice views of Lone Eagle Cirque from the pass.

Approach Gully:
We studied the cliffs for awhile from camp to make sure that we had the right gully. I climbed the gully the night before the climb to make sure it was right. See the photos for a better view of the gully. It's got a lot of big, easy boulder hopping with some awkward but short fourth class at the top. Judging from the anchor and webbing at the top, people have rapped here. After the fourth class, you have to go north (right), then south (left), then finally north (right) to get around some minor cliffs before the first buttress. Notably, there is an easy third class way to get up to the bottom of the cliffs if you start at Stone Lake. It's much easier technically than the talus gully, but longer. It may be also harder to find the cliff going up this way, but it's worth considering if you don't want to deal with the fourth class.

The route:
We found Roach's description in the Indian Peaks book to be spot-on! We followed his route almost exactly and only got lost on one pitch. Here's a brief run down.

Pitch 1: At the base of the first buttress, there are several options. There are at least four parallel cracks going up from the base of the buttress that end just right of the overhangs. Any of these are possible to climb. We chose the farthest right crack because it looked the cleanest. There is also a chimney around just the corner; it didn't look too hard, but might be dirtier than the cracks. I climbed the crack until I ran out of slings around 120 feet up. I'd call it 5.4.

Pitch 2: Erik led up the rest of the way up the first buttress. There were a few harder moves at the beginning (5.4), but abundant handholds. The last 100 feet were more like class 4. A golden eagle flew around us during this pitch.

Pitch 3: We walked 100 yards across a large flat area to the second buttress. The key to finding this pitch (or at least staying on the Roach route) is going quite a ways to the left. There look to be some climbable pitches directly ahead and right of the steep wall at the beginning of the buttress. But Roach's route is much farther left. See the beta picture. The ramp on this pitch includes some awesome and clean slab climbing with sweet gear placement in the crack to the left of the slab. Erik led this pitch for 120 feet. I'd call it 5.3.

Pitch 4: I led up the steep wall with abundant holds and some serious exposure. 60 feet at 5.2 with mostly straight-forward climbing. I think there is probably an easier way to the ledge to the right of our route. I was surprised how quickly we ran into the large ledge with all the trees. Roach says this ledge has "several small trees." It's more like a forest of small trees. The ledge is enormous and could be right at home in a sport climbing area with at least a dozen potential routes arching up from the sizable base area. (Note that I'm not suggesting putting any bolts here!)

Pitch 5: Roach mentions an "obvious and delightful 5.4 crack" that leaves the ledge. We saw many nice looking cracks, so we chose one that looked obvious (though maybe not delightful). Erik led and soon found that we chose a much more difficult crack. About 40 feet up, it got almost overhanging and proved hard to place gear. It also involved a squeeze chimney to get on the next ledge and into an alcove under a small overhang. In the end, it was 60 feet of 5.8-5.9 climbing. Roach's 5.4 crack was probably to the left.

Pitch 6: I led up from the alcove over mostly class 4 and 5.0 rock. I ran the rope out here because the climbing was so easy. I kept aiming for the area between the two upper overhangs and stopped when I went out of vocal range. 170 feet at 5.0-5.1.

Pitch 7: I led up between the two overhangs over several fun and several awkward ledges. Probably 80 feet of 5.2-5.3. The nice 5.7 crack is an option to the right on this pitch, but we decided to save it for another day. This pitch ends at the top of the second buttress at last with a view of the final buttress.

Pitch 8: There many options for finishing this climb. Roach describes two. There is an obvious 5.5 crack directly up the buttress and a 5.3 chimney around the corner to the right. After previewing both, we decided upon the 5.5 crack. The climbing on this pitch reminded me a lot of New Era in the Garden of the Gods. It was also the most exciting thing that's ever happened to me while rock climbing. About 40 feet up, after placing the second piece of pro, I started wedging my foot to continue up and I heard a loud pop and felt intense pain in my leg. At first I thought I'd somehow broken my leg, but then realized that I'd instead popped my knee out of its socket. It popped back in. After assuring Erik that I was all right and he could try to erase those horrible screams from his memory, I continued up the climb. A minute later, the knee popped again and I feel 15 feet to my last protection. I couldn't imagine why my knee was popping and mentally debated my options. Erik said that he could lead the rest of the climb and I could come down. I wasn't thinking very clearly, but decided that since I was in an awkward spot (and would be lowering off a small chockstone), I should continue the climb. At the top of the crack, the knee popped yet again, but I somehow managed to keep from falling and finish the climb. Erik climbed the pitch to meet me, and we surveyed the leg. I'm still not sure what I did to my knee, but it was certainly dramatic. If you were anywhere near the lake and heard the loud screaming and crying, I apologize for disturbing the beautiful quiet!

Getting down: After scrambling to the peak (and signing the register), we picked our way down off the summit tower. There's a gully about 50 feet past the summit that you can follow down for 100 feet before heading right (following cairns). This enables you to get down the tower with no raps. Once in the large boulder field, we carefully picked our way down some 2nd and 3rd class gullies. Just watch for cliffs this way. There are always ways around them, but they're not completely obvious.

Overall, this has got to be one of the best (and certainly the longest) alpine climbs I've done. Thanks for weekend, Erik! Let's do it again sometime. And don't tell anyone that I scream like a girl when I break my knee! Sep 3, 2008
Erik Tullberg
Colorado Springs
Erik Tullberg   Colorado Springs
No worries, Nathan... it sounded more like a dying rabbit than a little girl ;) It was indeed great fun! Well, except for the whole knee thing, but that just made it interesting.

To add to Nathan's report, we were on the mountain before the sun hit the face (left camp at 6:30 and on the face about 7). We were protecting every pitch with no simul-climbing and so topped out about 12. From the last couple pitches we were racing weather and hit Stone Lake just as the first raindrops began to fall. We spent the rest of the afternoon taking pictures of Nathan's knee and sleeping in the tent as the rain came down. Fortunately, it cleared off enough to have a warm dinner.

Oh, and on pitch 5, Nathan forgot to mention the bat cave. In order to get through the squeeze chimney, I had to stuff my arm about 2' into a very dirty bat cave. I used a hold in there as a bit of a lay back so that I could pull over the overhang. That alone is worth a 5.13 rating. ;)

Like Nathan, I'd definitely recommend this climb and I'm sure we'll go play there again sometime. Sep 29, 2008
Kevin Landolt
Fort Collins, Wyoming
Kevin Landolt   Fort Collins, Wyoming
Fun ridge climb. Beautiful area! Feb 9, 2013
Dave Bn
Boise, ID
Dave Bn   Boise, ID
I think it's incredibly misleading to give this route a 5.7 rating. Yes, there is a 30 ft 5.7 variation on the second to last pitch, but that doesn't make the route itself 5.7. In reality, this route barely reaches 5.4.

Anyways, a great easy alpine route with a brutal approach but beautiful views.

The first two pitches (4th - 5.2) and the odd approach gully can be skipped by continuing on the trail to Upper Lake and taking a grassy/3rd class ramp directly to the notch between the 1st and 2nd buttresses. I haven't climbed the gully Roach describes, but this alternative grass ramp was simple, pleasant, and obvious. Sep 2, 2013
Packwood, WA
Ian-Bailey   Packwood, WA
I have to agree with David Bn above. The standard route is only about 5.4. You have to do a variation to the route to make it 5.7. Did this on 8/30/15, and we found two very short sections off the standard route that were probably 5.7 Overall the route has low exposure, lots of big benches. We also bypassed the first buttress by heading to the grassy ramp to the north after climbing up the class 4 gully in Roach's description. Sep 10, 2015
Al Pino
Al Pino   Panamá
Getting down seasonal update: going right after the summit was very iced over and seemed to be dangerous. We went left and scrambled a few dry gullies and talus fields. Then built a RAP station when the base of P3 was visible; a nut and green cord were left behind. Fun route. Jul 5, 2017